19 December 2011

A Little Windy

And by a little, I mean ridiculously. Gusts up to 45 mph one day. That's quite the challenge for a bike commuter. Here's the bent, broken, twisted wreckage of my brand new back-yard canopy.

18 December 2011

EVERYONE is Wearing Clothes?...How Awkward

Alternately titled, "The Paper Thong"

A friend and I went to a nearby spa for our birthdays. This spa isn't a manicure/pedicure/massage kind of place (although they do offer those things there) but rather a giant building with thermal pools from an underground spring and a large sauna complex.
I've read about places like this and checked the website and it said:

Recommended clothing

With a large towel or bathrobe you are perfectly dressed for your spa visit.

I decided I was going to have to be okay with being naked in front of a bunch of complete strangers. I'm in Europe and they have a totally different body image culture. It was time to be comfortable with myself. When we got there, everyone had on a bathing suit. EVERYONE. I didn't bring a bathing suit. [Note: after approximately an hour of searching the website after we got back I found something that said bathing suits were mandatory in the pools but not allowed in the sauna. I had apparently been looking at the sauna section of the website when I found the above quote.] So I paid a ridiculous amount of money for a bathing suit from the little shop there.

I had a foot massage scheduled and despite having on only a bathing suit, the lady told me to take it off because it wouldn't be comfortable to lay there in a wet suit. However, apparently it's not okay to be naked on the massage table either. She gave me a paper thong to put on. Not paper underwear. Literally a paper thong. I'm not sure what that was supposed to protect me from or from me. Well, the massage wasn't worth the money but I kept the paper thong. Just to prove that I'm not making it up!

03 December 2011


The weather when we left for Barcelona.

The weather when we arrived in Barcelona.

View from the balcony off our room.

Kris and I at Thanksgiving dinner.

Flamenco dance show for Thanksgiving.

Antoni Gaudi - Catalan architect known for his highly distinctive style. His best-known work is La Sagrada Familia - a yet unfinished Roman Catholic church started in 1882.



La Sagrada Familia - from a distance at night.

La Sagrada Familia from the hill-side near the Olympic Stadium.

La Sagrada Familia as seen from Guell Park.

There are no views without the cranes and evidence of construction.

It's much brighter inside than I would have thought.

The "Nativity" face.

The "Passion" facade.

The Mila House. One of the Gaudi-designed houses in Barcelona.

The house where Gaudi lived in what became Guell Park.

Gaudi created countless mosaics.

The serpentine bench in Guell Park. It's the focal-point of a large terrace. It is covered by mosaics on both sides.

Churros and chocolate. According to the guide book this is what most Barcelonians eat for breakfast. But we didn't find them until the last day and even then they didn't seem all that common.

Toes in the Mediterranean.

At the Christmas Market. -

The “Tió de Nadal” Christmas log is a small log with a happy face painted on it and wearing the typical Catalan barretina red hat. You can also see giant Tió de Nadal at children's Christmas events. The Christmas log is also called “Caga Tió.” which means "the pooing log". It works like this. The Christmas log is pampered and looked after by children from the 8th December ( the day of Immaculate Conception called “Dia de la Immaculada Concepció,”) until Christmas Eve 24th December. The Caga Tió even gets a blanket to keep it warm at night. Then on Christmas Eve children sing the “Caga Tió” song to get the log to “poo” some presents. While they are singing they hit the log with a stick. When the song is finished with a final load cry of “Caga Tió!” ( = the imperative tense of the the verb "to defacate" so it means "Shit log!") and someone puts a hand under the blanket covering the Christmas log and takes out a present which the log has pooed! Great fun and the kids love it! Another old tradition is that if you have a fireplace you burn the “Tió" log, but many choose to keep it for next year.

When looking up things to do in Barcelona, I found out the Christmas Market opened while we would be there. One description said, "Also on sale are the Christmas crappers ..." I assumed this was a typo or a bad Google translation. I was wrong!

"El Caganer" is the naughty figure of Catalan navitivy scenes as “El Caganer” literally means “The crapper” or "the shitter." It is a an elf or gnome-like figure wearing the traditional Catalan red cap, the "barretina" and with his trousers down, his backside bare, defecating!. He or she can usually be found somewhere in the nativity scene if you look closely. The origins are a bit murky, but apparently "El Caganer" has been dropping his britches to "fertilize the earth" since the middle of the 19th century at least. He is a very popular fellow in Catalunya and thought to bring good luck. "El Caganer" can be seen in in many forms and public figures have the honour of being portrayed with their pants down at Christmas. Among the new 2011 Caganer figures are Shakira, Víctor Valdés, Cesc Fàbregas, Alexis Sánchez, Sarah Palin, Prince William and Kate Middleton

Christmas Crappers

La Boqueria Market

The weather upon our return :(

Dogs on a Train

Dogs are allowed on trains here (and in restaurants and many stores). I decided to take them on a train trip to see how they would do. They were a little nervous at first but loved all the attention their cuteness inevitably got them! By the trip back they were sprawled in the aisle as if they owned the place.

13 November 2011


The day after I got back from that Surprise Visit I posted about earlier, Lynette and Phoebe arrived for a 2 week stay.

It poured rain the day we went to Amsterdam.

I convinced them to go for a bike ride with me.

In Enkhuizen on their last day.

Less than a week after they left, Gran arrived. I picked her up in Brussels and after spending a couple days there we took the train to Paris.

Gran in the Grand Palace Square in Brussels

At the bottom of the Eiffel Tower

Gran at the Eiffel Tower

Most recently, Amie and Mike came to visit.

At the castle ruins in Valkenburg (http://www.castles.nl/valk/valk.html)

Mike had two new best friends who were very sad to see him go.

As for me, I'm getting ready to spend Thanksgiving in Barcelona, Spain and Christmas in Prague, Czech Republic. Stay tuned for pictures from those trips!

16 September 2011

Not So Lucky This Time

I lost my camera in a cab in Brussels the other day (it must have fallen out of my coat pocket). I called the cab company but, sadly, no one turned in a found camera. Guess it's time to go camera shopping. I'm just glad I had already downloaded the pictures from Gran's visit (which I will post here shortly)!!

20 August 2011

Thank Goodness for Semi-Honest People

I left my camera at the table at lunch today. When I realized it was gone I went back to look for it. The lady at the table had the camera in her purse. She didn't turn it in to the restaurant like I would have but she did give it to me when I asked. I was grateful for that.

18 August 2011


I was given a last-minute opportunity to attend a training class in Portland, OR. I lied to Mom and told her they wouldn't let me fly any other route but directly there and back. Then I surprised everyone with a visit. Sadly, there are no pictures of the actual surprises but here's one of the family.


There's a blueberry farm nearby. On a luckily nice day a couple weeks ago I headed there with two friends to pick berries.

Being the first nice day in a while, the place was packed!

Brenda and Amy with our haul!

31 July 2011

Liege Sunday Market

I took my chances with a very ominous-looking sky and took the train to Liege (Luik) in Belgium a few weeks ago. I had read that there is a giant Sunday market (anything on a Sunday is pretty rare here).
It turned out to be a beautiful day and after wandering around Liege (it's a bigger town than I expected and not as easily navigable as I'm used to in the Netherlands) with no idea which way to go (and, being a French-speaking city, I was not able to ask for directions), I randomly found the market.

It has to be at least a mile long. There was a lot of produce, clothes, meat, fish and cheese.

Not to mention fresh Liege waffles and crepes!

After all that walking (I walked for 3 hours), the waffle was the only thing I bought.